To get their campaign for a fifth world title under way, Italy coach Roberto Mancini has called up a 38-man squad for the opening trio of Qatar 2022 qualifying fixtures, featuring some new faces who could potentially feature at the European Championship finals this summer.
Ahead of their opening encounter with Northern Ireland, among a handful of call-ups from outside of Serie A were three 'Parisian' participants - Alessandro Florenzi, Marco Verratti and Everton loanee Moise Kean - and Mancini could name the first two in his starting lineup in Parma. Kean was belatedly ruled out on Wednesday.
Rome-born Spezia midfielder Matteo Ricci and rugged defender Rafael Toloi, of Atalanta, have been called up for the first time, but neither is likely to start against the Green and White Army - though both could feature in upcoming games with Bulgaria and Lithuania.
Former Manchester City manager Mancini - soon set to sign a new deal - has a potential dilemma in midfield however, after four COVID-19 cases emerged in the Inter Milan squad late last week.
Unfortunately, the Premier League player sustained a knee injury in training with the London club, while star performer Barella was late joining up with the squad, as Milan's public health authority insisted on a negative test result before he could meet his international teammates at the Coverciano training complex.
His fellow Nerzzzuri pair of Alessandro Bastoni and Stefano Sensi have been subject to the same restrictions too, but all three were cleared to travel in time. Talented youngster Bastoni may start in central defence, though Leonardo Bonucci is expected to earn his 100th cap alongside club-mate Giorgio Chiellini, with Barella a certain pick in the middle of the park.
Italy's midfield selection has been further compromised by an injury to versatile Roma midfielder Bryan Cristante, who has recently featured in a back three for the capital club, so Sassuolo's highly-rated Manuel Locatelli is set to make the first XI on Thursday.
Despite recent off-colour performances causing them to fall behind in Serie A's capocannoniere standings, Andrea Belotti and Ciro Immobile are favourites for the central striker's role on Thursday, with Napoli's in-form Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi - a bright spark for Sassuolo again this term - potentially featuring in support from the flanks.
Italy possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Emerson, Bonucci, Chiellini, Florenzi; Locatelli, Verratti, Barella; Insigne, Immobile, Berardi